Weekly Feature



2018-05-17 / Front Page

Zonta chapters team up to help expectant mothers

by BRYAN JACKSON Cheektowaga Editor


Members of Zonta Club of Cheektowaga-Lancaster cut tying ribbons for birthing kits on Saturday. From left are Heidi Salva, Erika Nichols, Sarah Nichols and Maria Sommerfeldt. The local club was joined by the Buffalo and Hamburg-Orchard Park chapters for the event, which resulted in hundreds of assembled kits. 
Photo by Sarah McIlhatten Members of Zonta Club of Cheektowaga-Lancaster cut tying ribbons for birthing kits on Saturday. From left are Heidi Salva, Erika Nichols, Sarah Nichols and Maria Sommerfeldt. The local club was joined by the Buffalo and Hamburg-Orchard Park chapters for the event, which resulted in hundreds of assembled kits. Photo by Sarah McIlhatten More than three dozen Zonta Club volunteers spent the Saturday before Mother’s Day working on a project that could save the lives of women whom none of the members will probably ever meet.

According to World Health Organization statistics, in 2015, around 830 women died every day from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and nearly all of those deaths occurred in poor, resource deprived areas. Furthermore, the vast majority of those deaths were preventable.

With those sobering statistics in mind, the Zonta Clubs of Cheektowaga-Lancaster, Hamburg-Orchard Park and Buffalo, as well as student volunteers, gathered at the Cheektowaga Senior Center on Saturday to assemble 989 birthing kits to be sent to women in need around the globe.

The kits include supplies such as gauze, plastic sheeting and soap that help create a cleaner, safer birthing environment for the woman and the child, according to Nancy Peacock, president of the Cheektowaga-Lancaster outfit.

“You just figure you go to the hospital and everything is clean and sanitary,” Peacock said. “Unfortunately, women in underdeveloped countries don’t have any facilities whatsoever.”

In addition to the plastic sheet, gauze and soap, the complete kits — which cost less than $2 each — contain gloves, a razor blade and a length of string or cord, which controls bleeding from the baby’s umbilical cord.

On Saturday, the volunteers set up stations to assemble the kits, which are then packed in quart-sized bags and given to nongovernmental organizations, many of which are church groups, to be distributed. In the past, kits assembled by the Cheektowaga Lancaster Zontians have gone to Uganda and Haiti, for example.

While the kits themselves are critical components to safer births, they are temporary, and their usefulness is limited. However, the NGOs preach sustainability and involve the women on the ground when they deliver the kits.

“These organizations then train local women to serve as midwives for delivery of babies,” Peacock said.

Zonta International, which, along with its local affiliates, seeks to empower women through service and advocacy, has been assembling birthing kits for more than a decade, and the Cheektowaga Lancaster club has participated for about eight years. For the last few years, the effort has been a collaboration with Hamburg-Orchard Park, and this year was the first time the Buffalo chapter joined the other two. Additionally, Z-Club members, essentially school-age Zontians, from Depew helped with the assembly.

Overall, Peacock said the goal is larger than the assembly day itself.

“That’s what we’re trying to do, not just get these kits out, but also to educate people about the problem that is out there in underdeveloped countries and what they can do to help,” Peacock said.

For more information about the clubs or the program, visit zontacheektowagalancaster.org or zontahamburgorchardpark.org.

Return to top